Nav: Home

ASU researcher helps develop prosthetic hand system, allowing user to 'feel' again

November 06, 2018

Arizona State University researcher James Abbas is part of a multi-institutional research team that has developed a new prosthetic hand system with a fully implanted, wirelessly controlled neurostimulator that has restored "feeling" to a person with a hand amputation.

The research, announced today at the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience, marks the first time a person has been fitted with a neural-enabled prosthetic hand (NEPH) system that can be used outside the laboratory in an everyday, real-world environment. Unlike commercially-available prosthetic hand systems currently on the market that only send electrical signals from the muscles to drive motors to open and close the hand, the NEPH system works in a bidirectional system that stimulates small groups of sensory fibers in the user's peripheral nerves providing him a sensation of touch.

For the first time, the NEPH system user can assess whether he has touched something, "feel" the hand opening and closing and even assess how firmly he is grasping an item as nerve fibers in his residual limb are stimulated by the fine wires implanted inside the nerves.

Abbas, an associate professor of biomedical engineering in the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering, began work on this integrated team effort with lead investigator Ranu Jung more than ten years ago while colleagues in the School of Biological and Health Systems Engineering at ASU.

"Our system is the first one that is wearable for long-term use beyond the laboratory setting," says Abbas, who directs ASU's Center for Adaptive Neural Systems and has expertise in neural engineering techniques and medical rehabilitation technology. "All of the components are either mounted on the prosthesis or implanted in the body. The system is familiar to him as it is not that different from using and wearing a regular prosthesis, but now when he touches something he gets feeling in the phantom hand and fingers he's lost."

The team's research builds on the pioneering work of FIU research professor Kenneth Horch, and extends the sensing technology beyond the lab.

"The participant has reported enhanced confidence in performing daily tasks. He is able to interact with objects around him and determine the answers to questions surrounding sensation, such as 'Have I touched it? How hard am I squeezing it? How large and soft is it?'" said Jung, professor and chair of the Department of Biomedical Engineering at Florida International University. "I am so grateful to the participant for believing in our research and giving us the opportunity to work with him to test our technology. My hope is that this will enhance his life for the better."

The U.S Food and Drug Administration (FDA) granted an investigational device exemption for the first-in-human trial of the NEPH system in 2016. The trial participant, who previously underwent a transradial, upper limb amputation, received the surgical implant to control the NEPH system nearly eight months ago. The surgery was performed by Dr. Aaron Berger and his team from Nicklaus Children's Hospital. After a period of laboratory-based experiments using the system and fitting procedures, he has used the system on a daily basis in his home for four months.

This NEPH system is the first in a range of possibilities for medical advances using similar neural-stimulating devices. In the future, Abbas foresees applying the technology to stimulate sensation in the much larger population of individuals with lower limb amputations.

Additionally, the team hopes their work can contribute to the growing field of bioelectronic medicine, which targets and stimulates neurons to treat metabolic or digestive diseases and relieve pain as an alternative to taking drugs to regulate biological processes. The team's success with implanting long-term use wireless, peripheral nerve stimulation technology may have substantial clinical implications in the future.
-end-
Jung, Abbas and the entire research team have developed the prosthetic hand system with support from the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering, the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development of the National Institutes of Health, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency Army Research Office, and the FIU Wallace H Coulter Eminent Scholars Chair in Biomedical Engineering Endowment.

About the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering

The Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering at Arizona State University, with more than 22,000 enrolled students, is the largest engineering school in the United States, offering 41 graduate and 25 undergraduate degree programs across six schools of academic focus. With students, faculty and researchers representing all 50 states and 135 countries, the Fulton Schools of Engineering is creating an inclusive environment for engineering excellence by advancing research and innovation at scale, revolutionizing engineering education and expanding global outreach and partner engagement. The Fulton Schools' research expenditures totaled $104 million for the 2017-2018 academic year. Learn more about the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering at http://engineering.asu.edu.

Arizona State University

Related Engineering Articles:

Engineering a new cancer detection tool
E. coli may have potentially harmful effects but scientists in Australia have discovered this bacterium produces a toxin which binds to an unusual sugar that is part of carbohydrate structures present on cells not usually produced by healthy cells.
Engineering heart valves for the many
The Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering and the University of Zurich announced today a cross-institutional team effort to generate a functional heart valve replacement with the capacity for repair, regeneration, and growth.
Geosciences-inspired engineering
The Mackenzie Dike Swarm and the roughly 120 other known giant dike swarms located across the planet may also provide useful information about efficient extraction of oil and natural gas in today's modern world.
Engineering success
Academically strong, low-income would-be engineers get the boost they need to complete their undergraduate degrees.
HKU Engineering Professor Ron Hui named a Fellow by the UK Royal Academy of Engineering
Professor Ron Hui, Chair Professor of Power Electronics and Philip Wong Wilson Wong Professor of Electrical Engineering at the University of Hong Kong, has been named a Fellow by the Royal Academy of Engineering, UK, one of the most prestigious national academies.
More Engineering News and Engineering Current Events

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Teaching For Better Humans
More than test scores or good grades — what do kids need to prepare them for the future? This hour, guest host Manoush Zomorodi and TED speakers explore how to help children grow into better humans, in and out of the classroom. Guests include educators Olympia Della Flora and Liz Kleinrock, psychologist Thomas Curran, and writer Jacqueline Woodson.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#535 Superior
Apologies for the delay getting this week's episode out! A technical glitch slowed us down, but all is once again well. This week, we look at the often troubling intertwining of science and race: its long history, its ability to persist even during periods of disrepute, and the current forms it takes as it resurfaces, leveraging the internet and nationalism to buoy itself. We speak with Angela Saini, independent journalist and author of the new book "Superior: The Return of Race Science", about where race science went and how it's coming back.